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State of the Small Islands

Small islands have very long coastlines in relation to their land area. Their geographic dispersion and relative isolation has granted them above-average proportions of unique but fragile ecosystems. Their ecosystems include coral reefs, sandy beaches, mangrove forests or hard, rocky cliffs. Such areas are very important for fisheries, agriculture and tourism. Traditionally, small islands depend heavily on the sea to provide food. They have limited natural resources and are economically very open: they rely on exchanges of people, know-how and goods with overseas partners. Thus, their populations and economic activities have always been heavily concentrated in the coastal zones. Coasts of small island nations are vulnerable to water pollution, dredging, sand and coral mining, uncontrolled coastal construction and inadequate land use planning. They are threatened by inundation, coastal erosion, increased flooding and loss of freshwater reserves and arable land. Many small islands, in particular atoll islands, lie within 3 metres of current sea level. This is where the effects of sea level rise would be felt first.
  • The environmental primacy and vulnarability of small islands can be understoon in terms of its small size, insularity and remoteness, proness to natural disasters and other environmental factors such as resource degradation and deplition.
  • Small Islands face vulnerability caused by the small size of the economy, physical isolation associated with high transportation costs, and problems related to the availability of fresh water.
  • Global environmental problems such as global warming, ozone deplition, greenhouse gases, etc. have an immediate and visible change on small islands - sea level rise, cyclones, floods and droughts etc.
  • Many islands of developed nations face depopulation, and small island nations in the developing countries suffer from rapid population growth rates.
Comments, addtions and references to the above are welcome. Please send then to Hari Srinivas - hsrinivas@gdrc.org
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